Whether you’re pre-drilling or looking for an alternative to the power drill for a more delicate project, a manual hand drill can be a life saver in a variety of DIY endeavors. The original way to drill, manual hand drills are often neglected by modern hobbyists in favor of more impressive looking power tools that promise versatility and brute force. But sooner or later you’ll come across a project that requires a gentler touch. So for those kinds of moments, we’ve prepared a list of the best manual hand drills of 2023. We’ll be going through everything you need to know, from how to pick them to where to find them. Let’s get to it!
An easy to use tool that won’t clank up your workshop, garage or tool box, the Fiskars Crafts Precision Hand Drill offers a tool that you’ll find yourself gravitating to much more often than you’d imagine. Although the strength and speed of the power drill can make it seem like it’s unlikely that you’ll ever cast it aside, this little tool might just do the trick. You’ll quickly find that there are many situations, projects and tasks around the house that are better served by this light weight tool than by a corded, clunky, more powerful alternative.
If you’re using it for woodworking, you might find that the handle design takes the manual drill model to the next level by offering a better grip and more comfortable drilling angle. If you’re planning to do minute detail work or drill very small holes, make sure to hunt down the appropriate bits and test them out as the Fiskars drill only comes equipped with four standard one out of the box.
This mini hand drill set has everything you need to get started in making jewelry or small decorative objects. This set includes some very thin bits that you might have trouble finding with other types of manual drills. It’s perfectly suited for delicate work and has a smooth turn that speaks to great design and manufacture. Offering more precision and control than a comparable precision power drill, the Mudder drill can come with 25 twist drills, 10 PCB mini drills and 1 pin vise making it an attractive offer for the price. If you do precision work, this is the one to beat!
A great manual drill that comes with its own bit collection, the Weichuan hand drill will serve the hobbyist as well as the more intensive user. With a solid feel that testifies to its quality, the drill is very easy to operate. The double pinion gears reduce the chances of stripping and the keyed chuck will hold your bit in place come hell or high water. Inspired by the design of hand drills of yesteryears this modern piece has a vintage feel that comes for an affordable price only made possible by modern production. Keep it in your tool box or your pocket when you’re in your shop, this tool will give you a lot of bang for your buck.
An easy to use manual drill that is ideal whether you’re doing woodworking, a DIY project or you’re simply looking for a tool that will allow you to drill the occasional hole without the need for power tools or handymen. Sturdy and precise, this drill is much safer than any electric option you’ll wield and it’ll serve you great for precision drilling in wood and other soft materials. The keyed chuck makes for a strong grip on the bit and therefore a stable experience when drilling. In fact, you’re likely to find yourself reaching for this tool much more often for certain tasks, after getting the hang of it. Beautifully designed and light weight, this drill won’t disappoint.
A great drill set for an affordable price this is the kit for you if you’re looking to do precision work without splurging on the tools. But rest assured, the Norcalway Pin Vise hand drill maintains stability through high quality manufacturing with quality materials. Comfortable to grip by its rubberized and surprisingly smooth to use, the Norcalway is a good budget set that will serve precision drilling needs well.
Manual hand drills are excellent tools for woodworkers. Power drills are admittedly effective but they can be too brutal for woodwork where a more delicate hand can be needed to protect the material. However, manual hand drills are a pretty wide category and each type is best suited for a type of task. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing the one for you.
There are three main types of hand drills that you’re likely to be considering.
These drills are a good starting point to get yourself familiarized with how to work a hand drill in the first place. Although they are best suited for joinery projects you can use them on scrap on wood to start to get a clear impression of what using a manual drill entails. You’ll need clamps and patience to get the hang of it.
So named after their shape, the egg beater drill is a gentle tool that is the one that’s most likely to fill the need where an electric drill could be used. It’s excellent for replacing hinges or drilling holes for drywall anchors. If you’re going to get this drill to make sure to do research on the handle. Because of the mechanism and design, the more commonly cited issue with the drill is the grip and angle of drilling. If you’re not able to grasp it comfortably you won’t be too keen to use it very often.
The last type of drill we’ll be looking into is the pin vise drill. This one is best suited for precision work. It’s great for a more gentle type of drilling that is very easy on the material. If you anticipate projects involving very softwoods or metals – like for example, jewelry work, this is the manual drill for you.
Something that you will definitely need to watch out for when choosing a hand drill is the kind of chuck that your drill has. Usually, a larger chuck means that the drill can handle more tasks. A keyless or keyed chuck can make some difference in time spent with the manual drill as the keyed one will require that you manually key the bit of your choosing in the drill.
Additionally, a 3 jaw chuck versus a 4 jaw chuck can offer more stability in holding the bit in place, although, for more hobbyists, we don’t anticipate this making that much of a difference.
The chuck is usually one of the strongest parts of the manual drill, made from pre-hardened steel and coated to avoid rusting.
Back in the day, manual drills were made of wood. Nowadays they’re almost all made out of high-speed steel, forged to withstand strain and pressure as well as the test of time. It’s important that your manual drill be made out of good sturdy material as it will need to be balanced and stable enough to use without sacrificing precision.
A great advantage of manual drills is that they’re much cheaper than their electronic counterparts. A manual drill will rarely cost you more than $50 unless it’s a collection piece or offers additional features and functions aside from straightforward drilling. It’s always a good idea to weigh up how much you’re willing to spend on a tool but, in this case, it probably won’t be the deciding factor.
Manual hand drills do not have the same type of versatility when it comes to drilling bits that you can expect from power drills. Because of the way they are built, different types of manual drills will be suited for different types of holes. A small eggbeater-style manual drill is a great tool for drilling very small holes into very soft material while completely controlling the speed and depth of the whole. This ensures a great seamless finish and no unseemingly damage to the wood.
Make sure to check what kind of bits you will need and then confirm that the tool you’ve got your eye on can handle the task.
Manual drills are pretty easy to use but they can get some getting used to especially if you’ve only used power drills before. Here are some easy steps to keep in mind when you’re taking your first stab at manual drilling.
The following video from Sikana English discusses ways to use a hand drill.
Before you start drilling you will need to clamp your material down to make sure you hold it in place. Make sure that the piece of wood you’re looking to drill into is secure. This is an important safety step but it’s also essential when drilling manually because the process is much slower and so any movement of the material can result in damage to it.
Choose the correct bit and tighten the jaws around it. Look at the depth of the material and hold the bit against it to make sure you don’t hit the table. Eyeball how deep the drilled hole should be inside the material and mark the spot of the hole with an x if needed.
Make sure to hold the operating handle with your dominant hand while with the other you keep either a top handle or the head in place – depending on the type of manual drill that you’re using. Rotate the handle carefully to drill into the material without letting go. Try to minimize any other movements while drilling. If you feel that the drilling is becoming more difficult, back up the bit as this can be caused by debris and overheating. Repeat this as necessary.
After you’ve reached the desired depth reverse to remove the bit from the wood.
Keep in mind when using a manual drill that some brace drills, in particular, might have a ratchet, which means that the bit will only be able to turn in one direction. Look for a switch to change direction if you’re finding it difficult to drill with such a tool.
A: Hand drills are still used, primarily in woodworking and jewelry making where precision and control is more important than the power of the drill.
A: Manual hand drills cost less than power drills do. Unless you’re looking at a highly reputable brand or a vintage collection piece they’re usually under $50.
A: Manual hand drills use a hand powered mechanism to drill holes into various types of material - usually relatively soft ones - using bits.
A: Manual hand drill can be a much better tool if you’re looking to control the depth and speed of drilling or you’re working with a soft or damage prone material. Power drills can cause damage for certain types of projects.
The Woodsmith Review Team’s product reviews and in-depth guides are here to help you choose the best tools and gear to build great-looking projects confidently. The content is created by The Woodsmith Review Team. Woodsmith’s editorial staff is not involved. Woodsmith is reader-supported: When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.